Ready for the US OPEN?
The USGA awarded the 2015 US Open to the very young Chambers Bays, many people throughout the golfing world thought this was risky and a somewhat premature decision but after our round there the one thing we can say is that it will be outstanding test for the best golfers in the world.
If spectators are expecting the field to hit 25 under par it’s not going to happen the joy will be watching the world’s best plot themselves around a tough public course. Robert Trent Jones II has crafted a spectacular, quirky, links style course out of the rugged remains of a gravel quarry. The views are beautiful, the obstacles are demanding but most of all the course is fun which makes for an excellent golf experience for the amateur golfer, even if the pros don’t like it.
You couldn’t really ask for a better setting. After a short drive out of Tacoma, WA, you find your way to the temporary club house perched on the hillside above the course. Arrive a little early and stand there for a while, you can take in the beauty of every hole on the course, it’s quite a sight, I’m not sure I’ve ever been to another course, with such a view and layout. We said it was quirky and it’s the little things like having to take a shuttle from the clubhouse to the practice area and starter which is kind of weird, but it is what it is. The massive warm up complex offers a huge putting green which is vital to playing well around here, even when it’s not set up for the US Open the greens are fantastically fast. The huge double chipping green is really helpful for getting a feel of the creativity you will need to navigate the course and the driving range is there for you to get you lose for the impending round.
Play started on 10 the day I was there. So I will do my best to keep the holes in the right order. We’ll start with my back nine which started on whole 1. It offers a huge landing zone and a solid par 5. The 18th, 1st and 10th are all running next to each other. There is a drop off between 18 and 1 and a huge mound between 1 and 10.
Hole number 2 offers a moderately blind landing zone, which is one of the few on the entire course, most holes are all visible right in front of you so you do find yourself questioning how to play the hole.
Hole number 5 is a huge fairway with plenty of room. The unique aspect of this hole is the kidney shaped green with a bunker front and centre.
Hole number 7 is a big bold par four dog leg right up the hill. While the green is huge, it is semi blind with a false front. You have to get up to the top on this one. It’s long and uphill so distance control is so important.
Hole number 8 is straight par 5, but a slicers nightmare. You can’t go right, since it drops off to the driving range.
I think hole 9 is going to be one of the most talked about holes during the US Open. It has some nasty pin placements. The teeing area is 100 feet above the green. The big hill on the left side of the green kicks everything right, even down to the bunker… we spent a lot of time in there.
After making the turn by the restrooms and practice area it’s off to hole number 10 (our first hole). Which is cut between the mountains of sand around the course. It is a nice 400 yard par 4 that starts wide and narrows as you near the green. While Hole 11 offers kind of a split fairway with a bunker in the middle. Both sides offer a downhill roll out for tee shots which is vital for this monster of a par 4.
Another hole what will make the US Open interesting is 12. It is a sweet little par 4. The green is drivable and is one of the largest greens on the course. It is just plain huge, but just because you drive the green it doesn’t mean you’re going to exit with a birdie, even a par. Placement, chipping and putting are still going to be extremely difficult on this massive green.
Holes 13 and 14, while looking at the scorecard are close in length, yet they play very different. That is because 13 is mostly uphill and has a nasty bunker complex as you near the green and 14 is all downhill from one of the best vistas of the entire course. It is a big hike to the top of the hill, but an angled fairway needs a pretty good poke to avoid the quarry pit running along the left and the cleverly placed bunker.
Crossing a few paths leads you to one of greatest looking par 3 holes in golf, hole 15. It is not intimidating or demanding but a classic and soon to be iconic picturesque view with the single pine tree in the background.
Hole 17 is a nice par 3 that plays slightly downhill. Our group had a great experience of sticking a bunch of shots in close not a particular challenging approach but once again the green are quick to ruin your par attempt
Hole 18 is a moderate length par 5 with remnants of the gravel quarry remaining along the right side of this hole. It offers a generous landing zone off the tee, but pinches in on the approach to the green. The putting surface sits down a little in a bowl, if you get it up there, you should find yourself with a par attempt and nice way to finish the round.
So the real issue with the US Open at Chambers Bay will be the turf. I’ve seen reports of it being almost concrete like. When I was there, it wasn’t that firm. Sure the ground crew were working toward getting things moving a little faster but it was very playable. The greens were very nice rolling smoothly at 11.5 on the stimp when we attended. I think it is fun that it is tough, linksy and different, but I hope USGA doesn’t turn it into a joke either. It’s fun to watch them struggle, but if they continue to speed the greens up, continually mover the course round during the competition it gets silly, then it isn’t fun for anyone.
If you live in the Seattle area this is a must play. If you live outside the Pacific Northwest, a trip to Chambers Bay should be on your list of things to do. If you’re from outside the US and thinking of going on a “bucket list” trip this is worth the travel time, especially if it turns in to what looks like is going to be a truly memorable event. You don’t always get the chance to play where the pros play, so here is your opportunity and as the condition improve daily, you will not be disappointed. It should make an awesome site for the 2015 US Open with all the spectacular viewing points. The current pictures and views are amazing and should make some great TV, let’s just hope the USGA doesn’t get silly with the turf conditions.